The Baby Mysteries

 

The Baby Mysteries Blog Post - Eloise Jan16

Wonderfully Horrible

Our baby daughter, Eloise, turns one on Sunday. The past year has been tiring, wacky, joyous, boring, momentous, difficult and amazing. Being mama to Eloise has been horribly wonderful and wonderfully horrible. Because babies are easy… except when they are not.

This inherent contrariness makes parenting a baby so fantastic and so awful at the same time. This clash makes them seem loveable even when they do something disgusting. This innate conflict is why we find everything stupendously hard the first time round and then try for a second baby a short time later. Babies are a paradox.

 

Baby Mysteries

For instance, a newborn is tiny but she takes up so much space in your life. I mean, how much washing is there? It just never ends. And how much stuff do you take with you just to get out the door?

It is also so strange how unfamiliar a newborn is, but how you cannot remember what your world was like before she arrived. She is exactly how you pictured her, even though you didn’t actually have an image in your head.

These baby mysteries extend further – where does all the time go? How come time seems to have gone so fast even though some days were so looooooonnnng, they seemed to last forever. Being awake at 2am does give that impression.

And when she sleeps badly overnight, how come she does not sleep well during the day too? Surely she would want to nap more? Oh, and the most perplexing thing of all when it comes to sleep – how is an inadvertent two minute car nap the same as a two hour sleep in her actual cot?

How on earth are the car keys or TV remote control so much more desirable than an actual baby toy? How does she discern the difference at such a young age?

Babies are soft yet so strong, cry one minute and laugh the next, and do the most enormous bowel movements yet smell divine. It’s all so baffling.

 

Revoltingly Cute

No matter what babies do, it seems super cute. If older children or adults did these things you would probably find it quite rude or revolting. Eloise has taken to pointing to other people’s food to try and solicit a bite. This is met with people kindly offering a morsel to her. They simply can’t resist. If she starts a game of ‘raspberry’ – putting her tongue between her lips and blowing to make a sound – then not only does she spray everyone within a three feet radius, but they all want to join in. And don’t get me started on bodily functions. I would challenge anyone not to smile when they hear any baby pass gas.

Babies are also super cute with things that are deemed easy. How incredible is it to see a baby in a peaceful slumber? Bonus points if she is in a front pack at a busy park or market.

And if none of that seems cute enough for you, then get your baby to wear adult size clothing like hats, shoes or sunglasses. There is something so innately confusing about large clothes on a tiny baby. It seems right and wrong at the same time.

 

Fun Theory

What is the root cause of this paradox? Why are babies wonderfully horrible and revoltingly cute? I have a fun theory that is likely to be wildly off the mark, but here goes…

Maybe it is because babies are better than us adults but we don’t want to acknowledge it. After all, we take care of them. We are the parents. But babies effortlessly do all the things that we are told makes life special and worthwhile. Things like smiling, being present and having courage come naturally to babies, but are sometimes hard for us.

The other day there was a little spider crawling across the floor near Eloise. It brought home all the things that Eloise is better at than me, including:

  • Marveling at nature and being curious
  • Being in the present moment
  • Being fearless (trying to pick up the spider)
  • Using both hands (to pick it up)
  • Trying new things (she also tried to eat the spider)
  • A single minded focus (nothing was distracting her from getting that spider)

 

A Ton of Smiles

The number one thing that Eloise does better than me – in fact, better than anyone I know – is spreading joy. Did you know that babies smile or laugh around 300 times per day, and I am sure Eloise keeps this average high. She smiles at strangers in the supermarket, shows delight at the slightest interaction and makes others laugh with her charm. She shows off her great big toothy grin freely, unreservedly and without any expectation. What happens, of course, is she elicits an absolute ton of smiles back.

Happy 1st Birthday Eloise. I hope you keep the best of your baby traits as you grow, particularly your cheerful nature. My wish is that you are always the recipient of a ton of smiles.

The Baby Mysteries Blog Post - Party Table First Birthday

 

What I Did Not Believe Until I Became A Parent

 

What I Did Not Believe Blog Post - Sleep Experiement Cartoon

Unpleasant Side Effects

When I found out I was pregnant I was overjoyed. But it does come with some unpleasant side effects. And I am not talking about morning sickness, back pain, heartburn or swollen ankles.

It comes with the side effects of people rubbing your belly (I am not a genie people!). It comes with mothers telling you their traumatic birth stories (do you really think telling me you pushed out your 18 pound baby after 26 zillion hours of labour with no pain relief is helpful in any way??). And the worst side effect of all – the advice, wisdom and facts that you are suddenly bombarded with.

But like every new mum-to-be, even though I heard some of these parenting insights over and over, I refused to believe them. If they were bad I rejected them outright – I didn’t want to hear about ‘poo explosions’ thank you very much. Even if they were great (‘you will love your baby more than anything in the world’), they usually seemed so overwhelming I ignored them. The irrelevant ones were dismissed straight away – why are domes on baby clothes so important anyway? So I skipped around in my rose-coloured pregnancy daze and then Dylan was born – and BAM it hits you – ‘they’ were right all along. So here are parenting truths – the good, the bad and the ugly.

TRUTH 1) You will NOT have spare time

I just couldn’t believe that if you took 8 hours of work away every day how I couldn’t have more spare time. How on earth could one little baby who supposedly sleeps most of the time change that? Well for one thing, breastfeeding alone can take up to 8 hours a day – and that is just the day feeds. It replaces your full time job and that’s before cooking, cleaning, changing nappies and getting baby to sleep. Especially In those first few weeks with a newborn there is sometimes no time for even for a shower.

TRUTH 2) You will NOT sleep as much as you would like

Textbook babies sleep 16 hours per day so I couldn’t understand how I would not get enough sleep.   After all, I am one of those lucky people who happily thrived on five or six hours a night. You are told “sleep when the baby sleeps” but what the books didn’t say was how difficult it was to know whether Dylan would have a 15 minute cat nap or sleep for three hours. In those first few weeks, I got to the stage where if I had two hours of sleep in a row it was an amazing miracle. Sometimes I would be happy if I managed to lie down and close my eyes in a dark room for ten minutes. I am pretty sure I could cure cancer or attain world peace if I ever get six hours of sleep in a row again.

TRUTH 3) Your entire world will change

I was told so often that my world was about to completely change that it became an almost cliché. This is not an instant transformation as soon as baby is born. It is much more slow and insidious. Then you look around a few months down the track and realise that there has been some sort of fundamental shift. The people I hang out with have changed. What I talk about and think about has altered. What used to be fun is not that fun anymore. When Dylan was three months old, I decided to go to a film at the film festival like I had been doing every year for the past ten years. The evening involved scheduling my in-laws to baby-sit, spending the week leading up to it expressing enough milk just in case baby was hungry and spending the time during the film worrying that the baby’s sleep cycle would change due to the disruption to the usual routine. A Saturday morning sleep-in, a lazy Sunday afternoon watching movies or a spontaneous weekend away are all just distant and hazy memories.

TRUTH 4) Your baby really is the most gorgeous in the world

I am an objective and rational woman. I know that every human is unique and we don’t all get the Jessica Alba/ Brad Pitt genes. So I didn’t quite believe that I would instantly decide that my baby is the most gorgeous baby in the world. Without a doubt he is the most handsome, delightful and perfect baby and there is not a single person who could tell me otherwise. I actually look at other parents with their far less good-looking babies and feel a bit sorry for them.

TRUTH 5) Your husband/ partner will step up to the challenge during labour

We were told over and over again that during labour my husband would not only be helpful and loving, but may actually enjoy it. We dismissed these outlandish claims. Mr S hates pain, anything medical and has to have his hand held when he goes for a blood test. But ‘they’ were right again – my husband even cut the cord.

TRUTH 6) Things that used to be disgusting are not a big deal

Babies do lots of wees and poos. I used to leave the room when friends changed nappies.   Now, not only do poop-filled nappies not bother me, I will go as far to say that they can be exciting. I have been known to even get up from a lie down if my husband is changing a nappy and announces that it is a ‘good one’.   We can have an entire conversation at meal times about the colour, consistency and frequency of our son’s number twos, and it is suddenly not gross or weird at all.

But I may as well save my breath – all you mums-to-be will not believe me. Just do me a favour and save this somewhere and then read it again six months after your child is born.

I Didn't Change

 

 

100 Days Old

100 Days Old Blog Post - Image of Eloise

All About Me

Our baby daughter, Eloise, entered our lives just over 100 days ago. Although the focus at home has been baby, baby, baby, I have recently realised that the previous two blog posts were all about me.

I wrote about my pregnancy, my labour, my birth. Cute photo aside, Eloise featured as a minor character in both those stories. It was time to turn the spotlight onto her – to make her a star.

What to Write About?

So I sat down at my keyboard to write an entire blog post about our brand new baby. And just stared at a blank page. What on earth was I going to write about?

New babies do NOTHING. I couldn’t just write about the ‘nothing’. No one wants to read about the ‘nothing’.

Then I realised that I was focusing on the wrong thing. I was targeting the ‘nothing’ part as the problem. That wasn’t the trouble at all. The real issue was that I had the verb wrong. Being a brand new baby is not about ‘doing’, it is about ‘being’. Just the fact that Eloise is here, that she IS should be enough.

We often forget we are ‘human beings’, not ‘human doings’. I think babies are around to give us the occasional reminder.

Its Called the Present Because It’s a Gift

For instance, new babies only know the present moment. There is no past or future for them. They live only in the now. Somewhere along the way, growing up, we lose this ability. Often, we forget that it is important and find ourselves dwelling in the past or racing into the future. Or perhaps we are told how vital being present is, and then try to reclaim this ability by attempting meditation/ taking some deep breaths / stopping to smell the roses.

However, for me, most of my attempts at being present feel forced. I put aside a few minutes to do some meditation.   When I take deep breaths, I have to add a mantra to it (“In – Calm, Out – Peace”). I have never seen a baby do this. They just breathe. Slowly. Properly. I envy their effortless ability to just be.

Always Choose Need over Want

A parenting rule that I try to live by is when in doubt, always choose a need over a want. Dylan wants to play outside when its dinnertime? He NEEDS to eat and WANTS to play. The answer becomes obvious.

With brand new babies, what is really nice is there is almost no conflict in this area. They need to eat. They need to sleep. They need to be warm and dry and comfortable. They need cuddles. That’s about it. You may have to decide between different immediate needs, but it is all needs. Infants are here to show us that it really is the simple things in life that matter the most.

I Hear You Loud and Clear

Babies have a very clear form of communicating to us. Of course, we might not know what they actually need, but they are not shy at letting us know that they have a need for something.

Adults might suggest, hint or query which can leave room for all kinds of misunderstandings or breakdowns in communication. Babies, on the other hand, command your attention. We are told straight up that something is not right and needs to be changed. Being given a command is extremely refreshing.

Babies Know Everything

So my first real blog post dedicated to my daughter Eloise is actually one of extreme gratitude. On the outside, it is obvious what I am thankful for. I now have an amazing, gorgeous little girl.   Dylan now has a sibling. And she completes our little family.

But it is the lessons that are taught to me every day that I am even more appreciative of. Eloise, you live in the present, you know what you need and communicate it to me in an authentic manner. You innately know how to live, how to just be human. I am in awe of this instinctive ability.

One Hundred Years Old

My main hope for you, Eloise, is that you naturally carry these traits past your first 100 days. I hope that they last for the next 100 weeks, 100 months or even 100 years. It is lovely to imagine you at a grand old age, shuffling slowly but deliberately out to your garden simply to smell the roses.

100 Days Old - Eloise in Pink

Letter To My Baby

Letter to My Baby - First Birthday Picture - Boy

The First Birthday Milestone

Dylan, you will be turning one very soon. My tiny quiet baby has grown into a loud, robust and wriggly almost-toddler. Nearly every parenting cliché ever voiced has come true this year. It has certainly been the steepest learning curve I have ever undertaken. The days were sometimes long, but the year was short. Children really do grow up so fast.

 

What You Have Taught Mummy – 1

Most self-help books I have read have had great concepts to improve my life but I have always found it difficult to picture their practical application. For instance they declare that you should always try new experiences and live life to the fullest. They say don’t ever give up on your goals or let failure overpower you. You need to knock obstacles out of the way and focus on what you want. Clearly define what you don’t want and eliminate it from your life. Until now, this all seemed kind of trite to me.

Dylan, you like discovering new things and you don’t give up the first time when something doesn’t work. You try and try and try and try again. You fall down and get back up. You focus on what you want and go for it. You overcome obstacles (like other toys, furniture and Daddy) to get what you want (usually my mobile phone if it has been left anywhere accessible). You don’t ask permission. And you clearly show us what you dislike (broccoli, having your face wiped) and don’t want to do (taking naps). Thanks to you, Dylan, I have come to the realisation that to get more out of life we should all be a bit more like you, curious, bold and fearless.

 

What You Have Taught Mummy – 2

When I first when to ‘Mums and Bubs’ yoga, at the end of the class the yoga teacher asked us to look at our wee babies and say to them “thank you for being my teacher”. And I have to admit, I thought this was all a bit ‘woo-woo’. But perhaps there is something to this.

When I go to get you out of your cot in the morning you give me the biggest grin and jump up and down ferociously. Every day you wake up excited and happy to be part of this world. We share a laugh constantly, often about the silliest little things. The other day you were cracking up because I was swiping at one of your toys and moving it across the floor of the lounge. It kept you amused for a good ten minutes, chuckling away. You often laugh for absolutely no reason at all. You don’t care what you wear or if there is a mess or if you have food on your face.

So now I understand what my yoga teacher and all those meditation gurus have been trying to tell us over the years. Laugh loud and often. Live in the present moment and be happy and grateful for the simple things in life that you have now. Thank you Dylan for being my teacher.

 

My Big Secret

I kept hearing about this enormous blast of love that mummies got the instant they held their newborn child for the first time. One of my friends said she forgot the pain of labour as soon as her little girl was in her arms. I was looking forward to that (the love part that is – the reduced pain part being an added bonus).

And it just didn’t happen. I felt many things when you were born – relieved for having a straightforward labour, proud of myself, grateful for having a healthy baby and awestruck by how tiny and perfect you were. But there was no overpowering feeling of falling in love.

I didn’t really mention it to anyone, just hoped that everyone assumed that I had instantly connected with you, my beautiful baby boy. But day-by-day I was wishing and hoping that a ferocious crackling love would suddenly hit me. I knew deep down that it is something that cannot be forced, an organic emotion that cannot be willed into existence. But I kept thinking there must be something I could do to bring it on.

All of a sudden you are nearly one year old and I realise although I was hoping for this fresh surge of love, I failed to appreciate that I have slowly developed a simmering kind of love that has been bubbling in the background all this time. Every day it keeps rising a little more towards boiling point. It is now a magnificent love, enormous and powerful.

I am not saying it is a better way of loving than an instant kick-start. But I am excited and happy to know that it doesn’t really matter, that I love you and it is endless and wonderful.

 

Happy Birthday

I have learnt so much from becoming your Mummy in the last year. You remind me every day of what is really important in this life. I look forward to loving you and learning from you for many, many, many years to come. Happy birthday Dylan.

Love, your mummy, Julie

Letter to My Baby - One Year Old Dylan